In 1947, if you had never seen one before, who could help you learn how to choose and use a washing machine?
In 1950, before HGTV and Martha Stewart, where could you go to learn how to tackle DIY projects like reupholstering a chair?
Luckily, Washington state citizens did not have to look far for help, because for over 100 years the Extension Service at the State College of Washington (now Washington State University) has offered demonstrations, and printed bulletins on these topics and thousands more.
Those thousands of bulletins can be found at the Washington State Library.
They are part of our State Publications collection, which has hundreds of thousands of reports, magazines, newsletters and yes, those bulletins, that have been published by Washington state and territorial agencies for over 150 years.
The range of the topics the Extension Service bulletins cover is awe inspiring.
What is Adequate Wiring? was written in 1940, and helped these new users of electricity to plan for their electrical needs for both their homes and farms for the next 5 years.
They include illustrations of fixtures, floorplans and recommended measurements for cabinets, shelves and counters. They offer assistance with selecting wall finishes and floor coverings.
You could learn how to make a cotton mattress (1940), iron a shirt (1954),
co-ordinate your accessories with a basic wardrobe (1950) and
how to sew an outfit for graduation (1954).
Despite the broad range of topics, their main target audience was living in rural areas and on farms. So there are hundreds of pamphlets on crops and farm animals.
In 1959, they first published Growing Strawberries in Washington, which described soil types, the varieties of strawberries, fertilizer and irrigation, how and when to plant, and how to harvest.
You can also find bulletins about any threat to those crops, including Fire Blight (1966), the Codling Moth (1969), and the Carrot Rust Fly (1979), and Curly Top (1969), which sounds cute, but is actually a disease that affects tomatoes and beets.
If you were thinking of starting a dairy farm, you could learn everything from What to feed the Dairy Herd (1943), to Raising Dairy Calves (1938) and how to breed Genetically Superior Dairy Cows (1982).
If you were thinking of adding a herd of pigs to your farm, Making Pigs Pay (1949) tells you how to pick good stock, how to breed them, feed them, build housing for them and treat their diseases.
The Cooperative Extension System is alive and well today in America.
The Washington State office is still run out of Washington State University in Pullman.
Today you can go to their web site to access just as wide a range of information as they offered 50 or 100 years ago.
You can browse the Extension Service titles in the State Library’s collection.
Contact us if you have any questions about using any of these items from our State Publications Collection.
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